By Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director
No. 2 College of the Canyons overpowered No. 5 Ventura College 31-7 on Saturday to improve to 8-0 on the season while gaining a stranglehold on the Southern California Football Association (SCFA) National Division, Northern League standings.
Canyons (8-0, 3-0) recorded six turnovers in the game, including five from the state's top ranked defensive unit, and limited the Pirates to just one scoring drive as part of a dominating display at Cougar Stadium.
COC wasted little time in the turnover battle, with Norio Thomas clawing the ball loose from Ventura kick returner Dominic Benson on the game's first play. The ball was quickly recovered by Canyons linebacker Earl English to put the Cougars in business at the Pirate 35-yard line.
Canyons wasn't able to get much going but did manage to put three points on the board with a 26-yard field goal by freshman kicker Tanner Brown with 13:08 to go in the quarter.
Two plays later COC defensive back Antonio Hunt intercepted a deep pass from Pirate quarterback Jay Vanderjagt, to give Canyons the ball back at its own 12-yard line.
From there it took Cougar signal caller Wyatt Eget just four plays to find the end zone via a 56-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Leroy Deshazor. Brown's PAT was good and the Cougars were quickly in control 10-0.
Ventura (5-2, 2-1) looked to bounce back with a long 18-play drive that included six first down plays, but once again the effort was stalled when Hunt picked off Vanderjagt for the second time.
The Pirates finally got on the board in the second quarter when quarterback Brock Domann capped a 49-yard scoring drive with a six-yard touchdown scamper. The touchdown was the first allowed by COC at Cougar stadium, and just the fourth this season. The PAT made it a 10-7 ballgame.
Canyons answered back on the ensuing drive behind an 18-yard pitch-and-catch from Eget to Brandon Pierce, and a strong 15-yard run from Cayden Dunn. That helped position COC running back Miles Anderson for a three-yard touchdown run that combined with another Brown PAT to put the score at 17-7 with 5:53 to go in the half.
The Cougars were forced to punt on the opening drive on the second half, but didn't have to go long without the ball as COC defensive back Raeshawn Roland picked off Domann on third and nine to send the COC offense back onto the field at the Ventura 31-yard line.
Eget and company made the most of the short field with KJ Latu eventually plunging into the end zone on a one-yard run. Brown's PAT was good and the Cougars went ahead 24-7 with 8:12 to go in the third quarter.
Roland was able to snag another Domann pass out of the air on Ventura's next drive to keep the Pirates at bay.
Ventura would eventually work the ball down to the Canyons 20-yard line but could get no further, eventually settling for a field goal attempt that missed wide right.
In its last gasp, the Pirates once again drove deep into Cougar territory. But as it had all night, the Cougars responded when it mattered most with Tofa Faingaa forcing a fumble from Ventura running back Thomas Duckett on the COC three-yard line. Jaq Vukobradovich recovered and the Cougar offense came back onto the field.
Canyons flexed its muscle over the next 8:37 seconds as part of 14-play, 98-yard drive that featured linebacker Tariq Speights in at fullback and defensive mates Latu and Khalib Johns taking turns gashing the Pirate defensive front as ball carriers.
Johns carried the ball eight times for a team-high 84 yards on the drive, including a long gain of 46 yards, b ehind a dominating effort from COC's offensive line. The drive was capped off by a one-yard quarterback keep from Eget, and Brown's PAT made it a 31-7 final score.
Eget finished the night 18-of-33 for 203 yards one touchdown and an interception. He also added 22 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Brandon Pierce was COC's leading receiver with six catches for 63 yards.
Canyons recorded five tackles for loss in the game, netted four interceptions and recovered two fumbles. Shaddrick Lowery Jr. and Speights tied for the team lead with five tackles each.
As a unit, the Cougars limited Ventura to 267 yards of total offense despite a 103-yard performance from running back Duckett.
The win over Ventura was the first for COC since the 2013 season and extended the Cougars' win streak to 13 consecutive games. Canyons, which sits in first place in the Northern League, has not lost a contest since falling to the Pirates in week six of the 2017 season. The 13-game unbeaten streak is the second longest active streak in the state.
With two regular season games remaining on the schedule, Canyons will next travel to Long Beach City College on Saturday, Nov. 3. That game is scheduled to kick off at 5 p.m.
Stay up to date on all this season's action by following the College of the Canyons Athletic department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.
— Photo by Jim Bloomfield/COC Sports Information